#KyDownsGrad Hembree sets course record in GP stakes

Jennie Rees

A Gulfstream Park press release (Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photography photo)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Three Diamonds Farm’s Hembree rallied from far back in the stretch to capture Saturday’s $100,000 El Prado Stakes at Gulfstream Park, setting a track record for 7 ½ furlongs on turf in the process. Hembree won a $145,000 allowance race on Sept. 19 at Kentucky Downs.

Trained by Michael Maker, the Grade 2 stakes winner ran 7 ½ furlongs on a firm turf in 1:27.06 horses, eclipsing the course record of 1:27.64 by Bow Tie Affair April 1, 2018.

“I got a perfect trip. I let the horse be where he is comfortable. When I asked him, he took off. He was flying home,” jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said.

Hembree, who captured the Oct. 13 Nearctic (G2) at Woodbine five races after being claimed for $50,000 in April, settled in 11th place in a 12 horse field as Abiding Star set solid fractions of 22,48 and 45.53 seconds for the first half mile. Uncle B. applied pressure on the pacesetter on the far turn and eventually took the lead in the top of the stretch. Irad Ortiz Jr. finally asked Hembree for some run on the turn into the stretch, where the 5-2 second choice swooped around rivals and surged through the stretch to win by a neck over Mr. Cub, the 2-1 favorite.

“As far back as he was, I thought he was in the clear down the lane. He had some time off after his last effort and had trained forwardly since, and he ran as we expected,” Maker said. “The two turns didn’t bother me, but I loved the 7 ½ distance. He was flying, and I thought for sure he’d get there. I felt confident coming off the turn.”

Hembree survived a claim of foul by Manoel Cruz, who checked Krampus in traffic in the stretch and finished fifth. Krampus’ trainer Bill Mott subsequently claimed foul against runner-up Mr. Cub.

Mr. Cub, who rallied late under Brian Hernandez Jr., finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Uncle B. but was disqualified and placed fifth for interfering with Krampus. Uncle B. was placed second, fourth-place finisher Cowboy Culture was placed third, while Krampus was placed fourth.

Hembree returned to winning form Saturday after a pair of subpar showings in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs and the Nov. 24 Turf Sprint Championship at Aqueduct.

Krampus finished fourth and Mr. Cub sixth in Kentucky Downs’ $750,000 Tourist Mile. Cowboy Culture finished ninth in Kentucky Downs’ $250,000 Old Friends Stakes won by next-out $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile winner Next Shares.